Young Canadian Quakers on war & recruitment
Saturday’s morning presentations provided deeper insight into the surprisingly heavy involvement of the military in everyday life in many countries, and into the resistance movements that are continuously pushing the boundaries against military authoritarianism.
Emma Sangster of Forces Watch spoke about the situation in the UK, where elementary school children are taught with lesson plans provided by the army, and run around in playgrounds and after-school care facilities funded by the military. Teenagers are offered membership in a military club through a magazine called “Camoflage”, which features articles on subjects like being a sniper. The British military is undergoing a rebranding: celebrities like Cheryl Cole go to Afghanistan to visit the troops, interviewing the “heroes” as if on a television talk show. The upcoming London Olympics promise to be a showcase of Britain’s military might, with displays of tanks, jets and missiles in the streets, warships on patrol and the largest amphibious assault ship moored in the Thames. July’s Olympics will be the largest deployment of British troops since WWII, with a security budget of around £1 billion.
Andreas Speck of War Resisters International and the conference’s organizer, discussed issues of militarism and masculinity, which extend far beyond the attitude of machismo that is intrinsic and encouraged in the armed forces. Queer resistance involves not only a rejection of stereotypical gender roles promoted by the military, but working against the many different kinds of physical and psychological borders that define “us” and “them” that are rooted in heterosexist ideology. The military in many countries have come to accept (often reluctantly) women and LGBT people. However, women are often still forced into gendered roles and sexual harassment, homophobia and ritual hazing are rampant, reinforcing stereotypes. And though the military may participate in the Pride Parade (in Sweden, for example) in order to show that they are open and inclusive, it is to highlight their difference from the (Muslim, Arab) enemy. Queer resisters may even be perceived as acting at odds against other pro-LGBT movements by those who see the military’s inclusiveness as progress.
Michael Schulze Von Glaßer briefly talked about his work in the field of “militainment” — the influence of the military in public spaces and entertainment. I will discuss this more thoroughly when I report on the very interesting militainment workshop, in which we discussed the creation, advertisement, gameplay and influence of video games like Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty.